The Worldwide Spectacle Of Banning San Francisco’s Naked Soul

Wolf Richter's picture

Wolf Richter

Rarely has a city council received so much worldwide attention as San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors. Yesterday, accompanied by booing and heckling and shouts of approval, they voted 6 to 5 to ban public nudity. A close decision, after months of hot debate. And protests, when it wasn’t too cold, by naked people outside City Hall. “Ban” in the San Francisco sense.

The earth-shattering event was plastered all over the world. The New York Times ran a story on it, as did the Wall Street Journal (et tu, Brute?) and the Guardian. The French business paper, Le Figaro, used the same photo that most other papers were using, a naked woman named Gypsy Taub wagging her finger at someone, perhaps the supervisors, while a sheriff’s deputy was getting ready to take action behind her. The photo was cropped above her breasts. “Is San Francisco Losing Its Soul,” the story started out.

The Spanish paper, El País, had a photo of naked men and women, but the essential details weren’t visible. The German paper Frankfurter Allgemeine had two stories, it simply being too good to pass up. And three photos: some naked hippies on a cable car (these people were skinny back then!); Taub, draped in a blue cloth and smiling at the cameras, being manhandled down a hallway; and a guy sitting on the steps of City Hall, dressed in a white hat, long hair, white socks, and shoes. These are the images of San Francisco that are now circulating around the world—and tourism, already a huge business, will doubtlessly spike.

The mayor and some of the supervisors were cited by name or even quoted, thus becoming instant worldwide celebrities, for a few minutes. Presidential candidate Ron Paul, though vastly more important in the overall scheme of things, never got anywhere near this kind of attention from the mainstream media [Where the Heck is Ron Paul? A Media Boycott Heats Up].

A tourist interested in naked people may be disappointed, though. In our neighborhood, I’ve never seen any. In North Beach, a few minutes away, I’ve run into a couple of guys, a few years apart, stragglers who’d forgotten to put on their clothes. On the beach down the street (Aquatics Park), people sunbathe properly attired, though there is a nude section on Baker Beach.

While driving down a busy street South of Market one day, I passed an overweight middle-aged naked guy on a bicycle. His ample buttocks were hanging off both sides of what appeared to be a tiny saddle. Not a pleasant sight. But hey, it’s not a lot of trouble to avert your eyes. In other parts of the city, you’d never see any naked people on the street.

Then there is the Castro. Naked guys have been congregating at the corner of Market and Castro with a “hey-look-what-I-have mentality,” explained Supervisor Scott Wiener, who’d authored the legislation to ban public nudity, and who represents the Castro district. He had to listen to complaints by upset business owners and residents for two years, he said, as the situation morphed from sporadic to seven days a week. “Freedom of expression” was important in the Castro, he maintained. “But that doesn’t mean we have no standards whatsoever.”

And public nudity “has its place,” Wiener said. “We’re just trying to chart some kind of middle path.” That meant that other interests had to be accommodated. You can’t just pass a blanket abolition of public nudity, not in San Francisco.

So nudity would still be allowed at special events, such as the Pride Parade, the Folsom Street Fair (a big leather-and-kink street party), and the Bay-to-Breakers run. They’ve always been associated with naked people, and spectators come from around the world to participate or watch the spectacle. Tourism is too important for San Francisco, and the zaniness of those attractions had to be maintained.

San Francisco’s fashion consciousness had to be accommodated as well. Apparel that exposes the buttocks is for some a wardrobe basic and will continue to be allowed. Buttocks, it was determined, weren’t the offending parts. Remains to be seen what happens when someone so attired bends over to pick up a coin on the street and the banned parts become visible.

Of course, men and women can still go topless. Turns out, the only offending parts are the genitals, except during certain events. So, people have to figure out how to cover them somehow.

Naked people can still enjoy their freedom for a while. As some amendments were added to the legislation, the board of supervisors must vote on the law a final time. Then Mayor Edwin Lee’s signature will need to be affixed to it before it can take effect on February 1. Penalties will be draconian: up to $100 for first-time violators; $200 the second time; $500 and up to one year in the hoosegow the third time.

But the battle isn’t over. A lawsuit has been filed in federal court against the city of San Francisco, claiming that the ban violated naked people’s constitutional right to free speech or whatever. Never a dull moment in San Francisco.

And here is a fun San Francisco special: a 650 hp Ford Fiesta, 0-60 in 1.8 seconds, takes over the streets “in an epic use of an iconic city, the ultimate urban playground San Francisco” (video).

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Zero Govt's picture

we really needed politicians to vote on this shit ...where would humanity be without politicians to give us their (monopoly) guidance on every issue under the sun

the nudity issue's settled, shouldn't need another vote for 2,000 years, everyone in society has been told the best path forward... awesome

How's the budgeting going dickheds?

RichardP's picture

Zero, if you knew this issue, you would know that the politicians are responding to the people, not leading them.  Business customers complained to business owners.  Business owners complained to politicians.  Politicians listened.

Hedge Fund of One's picture

At any SF cafe, just be sure to disinfect the outdoor seat that you are about to occupy.

torabora's picture

Next they'll ban alley cat sex.

falak pema's picture

We are deep into new Renaissance age.

As a comparison, during the high Renaissance period the greatest artists of the age were all homosexuals: Boticelli, De Vinci, Michael Angelo , Le Sodoma (wonderful sobriquet), were good examples of that trend.

THose who painted the masterpieces in Italy's glory and the POpe's fame were the most "liberated" souls of that age. Even the Popes shared that deviant passion; Jean de Medecis -Leon X, had male lovers. In fact the Papal Curia was for over twenty years; 1492-1527, one happy fuck-fest. 

What changed all that was the inevitable reaction of moralising and inquistorial minded Emperor Charles V who sacked ROme in 1527,  relegated the Pope to sterile figurehead, created his own Inquisition and waged war not only on Renaissance minded and liberal France but also Protestant Germany, and then England.

It showed in the paintings, the new transcendental expression of the age, (as God was dying in vile "indulgence" pandering and nation-state was still infant). It became "Manierist". All paintings from that date were more instilled with tortured emotion, aka EL Greco. It led to the corruption of Renaissance and the subsequent Baroque period.

Now fast forward, the US Renaissance is ending, (it did in 2008). San Francisco, since the 60s has been the icon of the "new tolerance" age. Haight Ashbury...

And as we see the age of paradigm change, profound societal transformation, and religious/ideological wars reflowering; as then, the age of moral resurgence will want its pound of flesh. Quite normal for some, outrageous regression for others. 

Fasten seat belts first world. 

Wakanda's picture

The US Renaissance is ending?  Really?

What percentage of internet traffic is porn or entertainment related?

How much art is now available online to millions who never left their hometowns?

How many people are making their own movies, taking better pictures, reporting the news, recording their own music, creating new genres of art?

We are at the dawn of a digital renaissance - driven by Apple Computer and the internet.  ZH is part of that revolution.

You need to get out more.

falak pema's picture

Well, no renaissance really ends, it has its ups and downs, it even changes countries; it went to Holland then.

If the Financial armageddon is upon us, if the meltdown of economy is general, it will stifle the pump of the revolution you talk about, in the country you live in; just like it did for the Italians. Economia is the foundation of art. America in financial duress will have many wounds to heal like rest of first world. 

When Mediterranean Italy of then lost out to the Atlantic age, Holland became centre of atlantic finance, then also beacon of the new northern renaissance age.

I agree we don't stop human endeavour but it can change focus and geographical locus. Just saying...I don't have any privileged information on what tomorrow will be. Just watching the flow of events. 

Wakanda's picture

The ability of humans to sift, transmit, distribute, improve information through the internet for cheap, cheap, cheap is just starting to impact economies and cultures.

This power is redefining what a revolution is and can be.  It is helping humans redefine who they are by blowing apart political, social, religious, sexual programming and replacing it with access to and breadth of knowledge at a mouse click or a touch.

The number one holiday gift this year is the iThing because people crave the power the internets give them.

The internet eliminates geographical focus and Google translate eliminates language barriors. 

If you try to reference the past to understand what is happening around you, you won't "get it".

The Second American Revolution, pouring through your screen at this moment - NOW!

falak pema's picture

I'll buy that, but I won't sell the past; 

'Cos hubris and crooked ambition will not only be of past; but of present and of future!

That's the lesson of current Pax Americana meltdown. 

Prudence is like courage, an ancient Greek virtue. So is temperance and justice; alas so missing today. 

As for tomorrow, and tomorrow and tomorrow....I'll have my coffee first. No revolution ever occurs without creating its monsters; sometimes worse than the past illness...Prudence, courage, moderation and justice. 

Just a final word of prudence : Bartolemeo Dias like Cristopher Columbus after him chartered the world for Portugal and Spain respectively. The seas being free, others followed in their footsteps and built powerful navies, where Spain and Portugal regressed. Conclusion : those who invent a new world don't always best profit from their own invention. 

The Internet is property of no one. Who knows where the next revolution in this ether will actually occur. Whatever Google and Apple may achieve in this day and age. Good luck to them anyways! 

Wakanda's picture

I am happily anticipating this West Coast trend to sweep across the nation and replace the puritanical idiocy that poses as "normal".

Be prepared to encounter the ugly and the beautiful, the sacred and the profane.  Learn to love it all. 

Take off your cloths America and free your mind - the rest will follow.

The Second American Revolution, gettin' nekkid in a neighborhood near you!


Dealyer Turdin's picture

There's this thing, you see it and realize what you're looking at is the first step on a staircase, not the last step, and it doesn't matter if it's to the attic or the basement, you don't want to see more, you just get the urge to whip out the "Police Line Do Not Cross Tape", so that you feel like going to the restaurant you were going to when you were walking down the street to go to the restaurant, instead of looking for the erase button that doesn't exist for the scarring visual footage of the not-so-well put together folks letting it all hang out, kind of like the way a cat on the kitchen table licking his bum may affect the taste of your grilled cheese sandwich sitting next to him.  I realize, not everyone is affected by connecting the dots...

dogbreath's picture

I was reading the china daily while there.  It seems there was some dude who liked hanging it all out on his balcony in full view of the neighbors.  They objected but I guess China is sort of liberal(classical), live and let live.  The neighbors liked soy beans and sling shots.

HermesHiccups's picture

Everyone here is where the rubber hits the road when it comes down to actual liberty for the individual. Freedom is not free (god i sound like a a-hole) this is where everyone who loves liberty and freedom needs to suck it up and deal with looking at some old fat dude with a nut sack dragging on the ground when he walks by. If we start to let our own feelings and emotions allow us to decide what others can and can not do then we are now the same people who get to decide if a super big gulp is evil device out to hurt mankind.

Suck it up boys and girls try and see the beauty of Wavy Gravy's wrinkled ass on a bike if not you are really not a lover of freedom!!!

Umh's picture

There are many more needed freedoms that have already been taken away than the right of someone to stroll around with no clothes on. Things like the right to assemble.....

TahoeBilly2012's picture

What's the difference between Nor Cal and the so called "South Land" (what a fucking nickname!).

The North provide's the South with water, good Americana, summer corn, wine and skiing (oh and literary culture). The other provide's Jewish comedy (for all the world to see, they thinkin they be seeing Americana), drones, and losing baseball teams.


q99x2's picture

I don't care what they do up there but somebody come by shaking their Bernanke in my neighborhood and I'm calling the police.

Schmuck Raker's picture


So... like, I totally did not even read the article, like, you know, but, like, i, you know, like, actually, like, think, like, that, like,"The Worldwide Spectacle Of Banning San Francisco’s Naked Soul" is a really, really, totally right good wow cool bitchin' thing; because, like, really, like, or you totally get like more, like, totally Dead................ Heads. Do you, like, know what I, like, mean?

"I am surrrrre"*




TahoeBilly2012's picture

Here is some nude SF, homesqueezes...




"Kill The Poor"

Efficiency and progress is ours once more
Now that we have the Neutron bomb
It's nice and quick and clean and gets things done
Away with excess enemy
But no less value to property
No sense in war but perfect sense at home:

The sun beams down on a brand new day
No more welfare tax to pay
Unsightly slums gone up in flashing light
Jobless millions whisked away
At last we have more room to play
All systems go to kill the poor tonight

Kill kill kill kill Kill the poor:Tonight

Behold the sparkle of champagne
The crime rate's gone
Feel free again
O' life's a dream with you, Miss Lily White
Jane Fonda on the screen today
Convinced the liberals it's okay
So let's get dressed and dance away the night

While they:
Kill kill kill kill Kill the poor:Tonight

are we there yet's picture

On e a year in the Ukraine there is a festival and parade of beautiful young naked women with painted body art.

onelight's picture

Well that is a worthy public event -- better than naked slobs on bikes as described in the article. But the latter may be smart, in a town full of bike thieves; no one will want their bikes..

monad's picture

They just made skateboarding illegal here. Goddamn theofascists...

jballz's picture


How can a story about a dude named Scott Weiner crusading against nudity be real?

Someone is just making this shit up and plugging it into the matrix.

onelight's picture

The matrix has a sense of humor. Even wackier would bw if he is related to a certain ex-Congressman in NY by same name, who sent package photos on twitter.. oops..

e2thex's picture

The people who ban nudity usually are ugly as fuck. Why?  We clearly need to form a committee to study this problem.

jballz's picture


Not a committee but a whole branch of science. Eugenics but only as a branch of philosophy (it gets all messy if it gets into applied sciences). 

This has bothered me for years. Why are people, on average, not very attractive? Sit on a park bench and watch women walk by (or men if you swing that way, or if you're a women but I don't think there are any of those at ZH). Count how many you would bang vs. how many you either wouldn't or would only if fully desperate. It's a terrible ratio. Most people are not very attractive. I get less than 5% of women I would say are hot. 

Shouldn't evolution have done a better job with this? Aesthetics is supposed to be a reproductive trait. Visual appeal is held as a survival trait in horticulture and zoology, with lots of evidence to support it. Animal species have mostly homogenized to a certain baseline of aesthetic appeal. There is the occasional ugly peacock I'm sure, but overall a peacock is just a fucking peacock. Cougars all look like cougars. 

Humans, mostly ugly with a fringe of hotness so in demand they can exploit the rarity and make money just being attractive aside some basic verbal skills.

I'm pretty sure nudity is banned for this reason. It isn't prurience, it's that too much of the population is repugnant enough fully clothed. How come?

I'd welcome any theories. My own, after deep contemplation, I think the nephalim/annunaki fables and ancient astronaut theories may be right. The star people come down every so often and steal all the hot women and take them back to their home planet, and leave the ugly ones behind to reproduce. Thus trimming the hedge to average to the ugly side instead of the aesthetically pleasing side.

Of course that is pure conjecture on my part but I have heard no other logical explanation. 




Hobbleknee's picture

I'm guessing you live in the north. Move to Texas, and the ugly ratio gets flipped in your favor.

Diogenes's picture

My theory is alcohol has a lot to do with it. Without alcohol how many ugly people would get laid?

Also when you are unfortunate looking yourself you pretty much have to take what you can get.

Satan's picture

Beer goggles must be worn at all times to avoid disappointment.

merizobeach's picture

You present many good points.  At a few spring training games in Phoenix this year, I observed the ratio of hot girls to be about 1 in 1000 people in attendance.  Not the best place to look, for sure.  On flights into or out of Taipei, however, I've noticed ratios as good as 1:8.  Seriously, it's shocking, in a good way.

Schmuck Raker's picture

P.S. What's with the Merit Badge avatar?

jballz's picture


It's cropped from a picture I took of the cop car in front of the NY Fed... didn't upload very well, not very gratuitous with the pic size but here's a link to the original.... should be self-explanatory why I chose it for this board


You're all going to gitmo by the way.


RockyRacoon's picture

Nice pic.  And as for our upcoming trip to southern locations, at my age a little R&R in more tropical climes would do me good.  Bring it.

jballz's picture

Ha! Fair enough. But no. I am above average but that is not saying much, as per my point. It's a cultural imperative that we try and work around the topic by saying beauty is subjective, or consumer-marketing driven, or we fall for stereotypes on what is aesthetically high value.

But that's bullshit, for the most part. There's some bell curve obviously but there is absolutely a standard hard wired in perception. I am fully capable of lying and saying I can recognize beauty in most, heck, all other people. But really the first thing I notice about anyone is whether they are attractive or not, that's unconscious for the most part. Getting past that takes work and self-deception. It's not projection, most people are homely. If it were projection on my part, Hollywood would not exist in its incredibly profitable incarnation. Tell me Hollywood could cast homely people and everyone would want to look like them and I'll say you're delusional. 




RichardP's picture

The brain is the largest sex organ we have.  If you only get turned on by stuff you see, you are missing a lot of the playing field.

three chord sloth's picture

Not as ugly as the folks who want to prance about au naturale. I used to live in The City. Trust me... the folks who regularly shed their britches are NOT the ones you wish to see... I still have nightmares.

onelight's picture

True, so true...and the locals got tired of it a while ago, although not intolerant (it's SF after all) just annoyed with the juvenile antics of some among the freedom fighters. That is where the pressure on the Supes began; not with the judgmental types. Baker Beach is not far away, and of course there are abodes aplenty. 

three chord sloth's picture

Ah... Baker Beach. I used to go there with an old girlfriend of mine. She was exactly the type you'd hope you'd see naked on the streets of San Francisco, yet there was no way in hell that would happen. The beach -- yes; the street corner -- no. There's a time and place for everything.

Bear's picture

At some point even the idiots get tired of the idiots ... If California is the 'State of Confusion' ... Frisco is it's nerve center 

Whalley World's picture

In Canada, a rather plain woman used to walk topless in a Vancouver suburb.  She fought her fine on the basis of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and won.

The next summer at the heavily attended Gay Pride Parade i went to English Bay afterward and saw dozens of beaufiful gals wandering the beach topless.  Went back the next year and not one top off.

I guess they took advantage of their right to bear breasts but the next year, their British prudish nature of most British Columbian's kicked in and  they said, o.k, we can do it, but why bother.

too bad, it was good while it lasted.

StychoKiller's picture

Hmm, explains Nancy Pelosi some...

knukles's picture

I like my penis out as much as the next guy, but this shit is outa control.  Walk around with your dick out but cannot eat something or other, say an insulting word....

Fuck San Francisco and all Her Uber-Liberal Fascists

sangell's picture

You got that right. Walk down the street with a marlboro in your mouth and you are a health menace. Put a joint or a cock in it and you are cool.

I once saw an obviously mentally disturbed woman walking naked down Pine at Fillmore but its too chilly most of the time to walk naked in San Francisco. Unfortunately, it isn't too unusual to see evidence of public defecation on the 'Streets of San Francisco' although you never saw Karl Malden scraping the sole of his shoe against a curb on the old TV series.

john39's picture

narcissism run amuck...  do these old guys really think that anyone, gay or straight, wants to look at their pathetic deformed old bodies?  SF is a side show in a declining culture.